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Grape Jam, or My Kitchen Aid is Busted

The DH and I have been at this marriage/housekeeping thing for a very long time, but even we have not done everything. This year, I became very sensitive to the whole ‘is there no food that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup in it?” thing and decided that since PB&J is the “go to” lunch at Chez Siberia, that I’d make grape jam. Since we live about an hour from one of the great grape growing regions in the United States, we decided to go up this morning and pick grapes.

Yes, there are such places as ‘U Pick” in terms of grapes. Some of the vineyards will set aside wine grapes for home wine makers, but some people with grapes that are not really popular for making wine now (grapes go in cycles – thirty years ago, these particular grapes were being used by the big commercial wineries; then they got out of this and started using more fancy ‘vinifera’ grapes) are doing “you pick’ rather than just rip out the vines . This particular place grows Concord (the staple of you-know-who’s grape jelly), Niagara, Catawba and Delaware grapes. We picked Catawba and Delaware because they are different, and are actually better for jams and jellies. We really did not ‘pick’ per se – we were actually given little clippers to snip the clusters off the vines. Very tidy. And there is something truly magical about lifting up the leaves and finding these huge clusters of grapes. So, it was easy for us to pick our two boxes in 30 minutes (that was 36 pounds – a lot of grapes for actually very little work), weigh out and come home.

Now, the DH and I have made all sorts of jams from fruit – but we almost ground to a standstill when we tried to put the grapes (after we’d washed them well and taken them off the stems) through the vegetable attachment of our Kitchen Aid mixer. This is an amazing piece of equipment (and is featured on that tomato photo at the top of the page) but obviously, it was never meant to deal with grape seeds.

Which are big. And hard. And basically jammed up the end of the attachment and caused it to explode. Why am I thinking about that scene at the dinner table in “Alien”?

Anyway, while the DH was working away, I beat a hasty retreat to ‘the large housewares and bedding store’ and bought myself the biggest food mill they’ve got. Why I never had one is beyond me, but I can tell you that other than a bit of arm work, it’s a cinch to use and made short work of the grapes, which we’d smooshed down and simmered a bit. Now, if I could have figured out a way to separate the grape seeds from the rest of the skins and grind them up to get grape seed oil, I certainly would have done that but even the vineyards have issues with that and usually just put the stuff from the wine making operations out on the fields.

In any case, making jam is simplicity itself. Although I found plenty of recipes for grape jam/jelly that called for commercial pectin, I have no issues with using plain old sugar, particularly with fruit that is as ‘hit you in the head’ sweet as these grapes were. As a matter of fact, the amount of sugar I had to use to get it to gel up was actually about half of what I usually have to use with strawberries – for two big pots of grape solids and juice, I ended up using about 4.5 cups of sugar. Just heat up the solids and juice until it starts to cook down (it basically is a lot thicker than when you started), add the sugar and cook until it starts to coat a spoon. Then put a spoonful on a cold plate, wait a minute and if the whole puddle stays together and starts to move down the plate in a mass, you’ve got jam.

Put the hot jam into clean, washed, heated jars (I put mine into the oven at 350 for 5-10 minutes), top with clean lids and bands which have been heated up in simmering water. Screw down the bands and lids, put the jar on a cooking rack. Within a few minutes, you should hear the ‘ping’ of being done.

Nothing easier.

Now, where’s that peanut butter?

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5 Comments

  1. WolfSong says:

    I have to add, that for safety, if the jam is going to be shelf stored, it should be water bath processed for 10 minutes.

    That said, I wish I lived within a days drive of u-pick grapes…I love grape jam/jelly, and would love to make homemade, but, buying grapes in the grocery store makes it cost prohibitive-unless it’s wine making season, and the local mega-mart has cases cheap.

    I have also considered growing grapes myself, but with a hound who loves to steal fruit, that doesn’t work!

  2. htwollin says:

    At Chez Siberia – after 20+ years of major attempts to grow fruit of any sort, we have one old apple tree, clinging to life. If I want fruit, I have to go pick it; luckily, we have you pick places all around is and the drive up to the grapes is only about an hour.

  3. Mardel says:

    We have lots of pick your own farms around here but I’m not sure about grapes. Probably more than an hour away. My mom made grape jam from wild grapes we found along the side of the road where I grew up in Texas. The grapes were different but I might need to find some grape-picking.

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